Mobile madness

**When is the right time for your child to have a cellphone?

**Cellphones have a lot going for them in the safety stakes, but by letting our children have them are we opening kids up to potential text-bullying or possible radiation damage? And will they spend hours in their room, texting their friends? Not to mention the unknown costs you could incur. Here are some tips to help you decide if your child should become the owner of a cellphone:

Are they responsible enough to look after things of value? They may already have an iPod or mp3 player. Can they keep track of it? oost experts agree that if your child is responsible enough to own a thing of value and not lose it, then they will generally be okay handling a cellphone.

Health experts don’t recommend that kids under eight years should have one. They also say older children should limit their use. In the late 1990s, the UK government commissioned a major study into cellphone safety and the resulting report, which was published in 2000, showed no firm evidence of health risks associated with using mobile phones. But the report advised that it would be sensible not to allow young children to use cellphones regularly and warned all users to keep calls as brief as possible. Would you find it useful to know that your child didn’t need to be picked up until later, or had missed the bus and was stranded on their own? Then a mobile is an excellent tool to make sure you know where your child is at all times.

Children under 14 should not be left alone, but if you have a younger child who walks home from school or is involved in after-school activities, a cellphone can be a good back-up. But be warned – kids will often keep tabs on you too, texting you at work to see howyour day is going and ask what you are having for lunch! Having a text chat can be reassuring for a child if their mum or dad is away for a while or takes frequent work trips out of town. You can text them morning and night if you’re overseas: this not only saves on expensive phone bills but it’s often just the reassurance they need.

oany child development experts say a child of intermediate school age is old enough to own a phone. Check the policy at your child’s school, though, as some want phones kept in the office during school time or at least turned off in class. Have a chat with your child about the cost involved. oost prepay mobiles have a $10 text plan, while calls are expensive. You can also tag it on to your bill or have a “best mates” arrangement for calls, which is even cheaper. Arrange with your child how the $10 will be paid – either out of their pocket money, by you, or by going halves to teach responsibility for their phone use. Perhaps you could make a rule that phone calls are saved for emergencies only unless you can get a good deal from your provider.

Talk to your child about text bullying. This is a widespread problem with children and it can take a number of forms:

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